“We talk about a right to vote, and I think the vast majority of Americans believe that right exists. But the evidence of election after election, in state after state, is that the right is not protected; it’s under steady assault,” says John Bonifaz, the legal director of the national nonprofit Voter Action. Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Eric Foner (a Nation editorial board member) puts it another way, arguing that American history is “not just a story of expanding the right to vote. It has expanded and contracted.”
The current US electoral process is not what democracy looks like. At least not if we go by the standard embraced by the vast majority of democratic nations. As Representative Keith Ellison notes, “Democracies around the world—old democracies, new democracies—have in their constitutions an affirmative right to vote. It’s remarkable to me that the United States does not have that guarantee in our Constitution. I think a lot of our problems come back to this issue.”
So Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, is doing something about it. With Representative Mark Pocan, a newly elected Wisconsin Democrat, he is preparing to introduce a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to vote.
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